Rich Mayfield: Not just another Dam column |

Rich Mayfield: Not just another Dam column

Apparently, these are fearful times. The Denver Water Board has responded by closing one of the only three east-west roads in all of Summit County. The fact that this particular road courses atop the largest earthen dam in the Colorado High Country has most mountain residents wondering just who is planning what.

The dam and its resultant reservoir has been a greatly appreciated source of beauty, recreation, inspiration and more than a few puns. Giving directions to a family of four visiting from Iowa always meant watching eyebrows go up and chins go down when you’d say, “Just head off across the dam road …” I remember when a friend of mine was pondering what to name his newly created local brewery and asked a certain clergyman if “The Dam Brewery” might be a tad too provocative. Whereupon, the pastor replied, “Naw … I think it’s a hell of a good idea.”

In any case, there I was sitting on my deck just four miles north of the dam, pondering the increase in value to my humble abode when it becomes riverside property after my downhill neighbors all wash away, when I decided to investigate the controversial closure. Not wishing to waste precious fuel in these inflationary times, I climbed aboard my not always trusty mountain bike and headed up the dam to have myself a look around.

Half-way up the trail, I understood the wisdom of the Denver Water Board’s action in closing the dam road to autos … any terrorist having to pedal up the path that transverses the dam would probably be too exhausted to do much damage once he got there. As for me, once atop, I waited until my heart went from beating like an anxious hummingbird down to something akin to a manic-minded swallow and began bravely biking across the dam, keeping an eye out for any breeches in security. They weren’t hard to spot.

First I came across a boat filled with four fishermen casually casting off, no more than a hand-grenade’s toss from the glory hole. The men all wore hats but appeared to be fair-skinned and rather tall. I assumed they were counter-intelligence operatives sent from someplace like Norway. I frantically waved them away from the dam’s earthen wall but they simply smiled back and waved in return. “Iz gud vishin’ by dis dam,” I dink dey said.

A little further on, at the once favorite overlook near the west side of the dam, stood an elderly couple (supposedly) visiting from California and taking a plethora of photographs across the lake. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why the three DWB security officers leaning against their vehicles, shooting the you-know-what, didn’t take the two old goats out.

A family of five pedaled past and greeted me with a bevy of suspicious “Good mornings!” I thought I detected a hint of Persian in their inflections.

Sitting on a bench that afforded great views of both the lake and the dam that created it, I took note of other seemingly innocent actions that certainly hid more sinister intentions.

There was a little boy, no more than 3, whose parents had the audacity to allow him to wade waist deep into the water. Who knows what surreptitious secretions may have entered into Denver’s drinking supply? Two dogs, either Pekinese or German Shepherds, I couldn’t decide which but I knew they were foreigners, frolicked nearby in clear violation of our nation’s new security standards and nary an officer nearby to shoo them away or pump them full of lead. I was appalled.

President Roosevelt’s oft-repeated warning that the “Only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” seems worth repeating again if just to remind us of the ease by which we become a paranoid society. Certainly appropriate cautionary actions may be called for by governmental agencies but surely such measures should be taken with at least some participation by the government’s own citizenry. When our rights are reduced, we at least deserve a reasonable explanation.

The furor the dam road’s closing has caused may just benefit us in another way. Perhaps our own experience of the inconveniences that can be perpetrated in the assumed pursuit of national security might allow us to be considerably more sensitive to far worse inconveniences thrust upon fellow Americans who, because of their color, culture or heritage have born the brunt of our post, and sometimes paranoid, 9/11 society.

Local Rich Mayfield is the author of “Reconstructing Christianity: Notes from the New Reformation.” E-mail him at

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